Flakes of falling snow sprinkle the greens and browns of the trees in the canyon, like flour sifted onto a chocolate cake. I gently inhale warm air, exhaling a silent prayer of gratitude. Drawn by the alluring glow of a myriad of miniature white lights, I turn to gaze upon a ten-foot Christmas tree. Simple, yet captivating ornaments hang from its branches. Cascading burlap ribbons freely flowing down its sides display the tree’s splendor in a beautiful frame of love.
Audrey Assad is singing words of invitation from the Echo in the kitchen:
“Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me…”
I open the devotional resting in my lap, and begin to read.
“Today, I am grateful to stay close. This became evident as I was writing and began to get lost. My first instinct was to rely on my mind and what I thought I already knew.”
Pen in hand, I open my purple journal. Thoughts of the previous night linger in my soul. Laughing with courageous friends, while singing along with my husband’s guitar, was music to listening ears.
I pause. Breathe. Inhale. Tears. Exhale.
Pausing in silence to breathe in grace is a powerful gift of mercy, soothing the weary hearts, minds, and bodies of soul warriors.
“I grew frustrated and wanted to quit…It wasn’t until I got close to the place in my heart where kindness dwells and He lives that I got clarity in what I wanted to write.”
I am well-acquainted with frustration on all levels, and I have felt like quitting.
During the last few months I have sensed my body’s fatigue from thoughts of repeated scenes of violence and lots of noisy words. As if stuck on an island, surrounded by a riptide, I have felt my body’s need for rest from swimming in crazy waves of pushing and pulling chaos. Silence from TV, social media, and gossip has been most helpful.
When we are feeling frustrated by the weight of burdened thoughts and a tired body, self-awareness is kind. Asking for help when the weight is too heavy to bear is an act of courage. Adults of all ages in America are hurting and in need of Love’s strength and tenderness. Children are watching, at risk of being lost in the chaos and confusion. The heartbeat of a nation on fast-forward is exhausting.
Breathing deeply, I pick up my pen and begin writing in my journal:
“Jesus. Love moves slow. Christmas Day was just 2 weeks ago. I feel our nation is rushing forward and out of control. Or have we pushed Love, like ornaments, into a box and packed it away? I’m so very curious. Please help everyone to breathe and pause in the chaos long enough to receive your grace, first for ourselves, and then for each other. Help us to slow down and notice you in simple things of beauty, one day at a time. May we be mindful of Christmas and the Joy of your birth, and may your light connect the stories we bear in America like the glow of a thousand miniature lights on a Christmas tree. Amen.”
Our nation is in a season of sorrow. Many people carry stories in need of hope and healing from deep wounds of trauma. The hearts of our homes and nation are under pressure and cracks are being exposed in our foundation. I feel a call nesting in my soul.
I finish reading the words of my daily devotion:
“In these moments, I feel vulnerable. I can’t wish for something different…all the more reason why I need to stay close to Him. Breathing deeply with a dachie on my lap.” *
Like a redbird landing on a slender yet strong branch, her simple and holy words land in my heart.
One more journal entry:
“Thank you, Father, for the hearts and words of matriarchs and patriarchs living and loving in unity of your spirit. Thank you for my voice and for this space to share my words. I pray you use our voices as invitations to pray with gratitude for your Promise, Jesus. May we speak with humility in tender and strong words to bear witness of your Love in stories framed in yours. May stories born of suffering and death be met with your lovingkindness, and birth grace and Joy into future generations. May adults, young and old, slow down long enough to hear children’s stories and listen to prayers, while speaking the Promise of Love with Hope until your return. May words of gratitude flow freely for all you give us in every story, because every story matters.”
I sense tender tears of sorrow, and yet I hear laughter of Joy in the home of my heart. Passing through generations, the sound of thunder is heralding His victory in a war already won. Can you hear the thunder?
Rising from my chair, I smooth the wrinkles in my redbird pajamas and survey the silent snow. The sound of a song and a prayer rising in the night is calming. Looking at the angel resting on the fireplace, I take in the beauty of her golden hair and the surprise of her dress. With her hands folded in prayer and gratitude, the gold of her dress and the iridescent white of her wings reflect pointing beams of spotlights anchored in the ceiling.
I reach for my pen to sign a note for our granddaughter and place it in a cookie jar on top of others penned to my husband, sons, and daughters. Prayers written in Faith and steadfast Hope, with much Love and gratitude for more to come.
*Living in Gratitude, by Mary Jane Hamilton
Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of thirty years. She is a mother of four children and one grandchild. She is a spiritual counselor with Restoration Counseling, and her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two-stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play, and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.